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Labor Shortage

  • Date Submitted: 05/17/2011 08:21 PM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 43.5 
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COMMENT: The changing value of the garment worker
By: just-style.com | 18 October 2010
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|With rising overheads, factory productivity is now an important issue       |

Garment sourcing has changed in the last few years. As the industry is becoming increasingly dependent on a well-trained, highly motivated and stable workforce, it is instead facing higher wages, a labour shortage, and worker unrest. Apparel companies must face up to these problems if they are to find workable solutions, writes David Birnbaum.

For the past 30 years, the experts have been saying that increasing profits is good -a sign of a stronger economy, while increasing wages is bad - a sign of inflation. These same experts have also been saying that a flexible labour policy based on the unrestricted ability to lay off workers invariably leads to reduced unemployment.

It now appears they were wrong. In the US, real wages are approaching record lows while unemployment is approaching levels unseen since the great depression. Profits are zooming up while at the same time the economy seems to be going to hell in a hand-basket. I only wish there was room in that hand-basket for those experts.

The belief that low wages are somehow beneficial to the economy has carried over to our own industry. For years governments in garment exporting countries have pursued policies to keep workers' wages down, while customers have selected suppliers on the basis of low labour rates.

In the past there was indeed a relationship between low labour rates and low garment cost. That is now coming to an end.

Traditionally our industry consisted mostly of medium-sized (300-1200 sewing machines) locally owned factories that relied on semi-skilled, single-tasked sewing machine operators working in long assembly lines to produce large quantities of a few styles.

In the...

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